ISSUE #60 / may 16, 2019
While most of their peers flood the air with layers of sound, Chicago trio Dehd has always trended to the opposite, embracing a freedom from the conventional indie rock sound. Forming as an outlet for a budding romance when guitarist Jason Balla and bassist Emily Kempf started dating, they brought along their friend Eric McGrady on drums, and Dehd was born. Four years has gone by, and the romance has long fizzled, but Dehd remains stronger than ever. With the announcements that Balla’s main project NE-HI is calling it quits and Kempf leaving Lala Lala last year, they are now concentrating full time on the quirky, jangle surf-pop of Dehd. McGrady’s cymbal-less drumming is at the center of the stripped-down sound. He uses only a single tom and snare and plays in a marching band, metronome-style that allows the other two to weave and interlace within each other. In between the hooky melodies of the vocals, the only real melodies that exist here, Balla’s off-tuned guitar chimes along as Kempf’s moody groovy bass lines propel the short tunes forward (only one of these tunes, “On My Side” runs over three minutes,) functioning as a sort of “break up and make up” record, Water is Dehd’s coming out party. They have slowly built up a rep in the local and national scene and now are launching their fourth full tour over the next two months that will help spread the gospel of Dehd all over the country.
Dehd doesn’t have another Chicago show on the books, but we’re sure as soon as they are back in town in July, they’ll have something lined up.
Woongi / Sooper
From just the right side of weird comes Chicago synth mavens Woongi with their second full-length, Rip’s Cuts. A deep dive into the heads of songwriter Wavid Wurtin and the rest of the W’s (Wax Weckman, Watt Wavis, and Wencer Wein). The fuzzy and whirring sound contains shades of other synth-heavy acts (Animal Collective and a tamer, more lyrical Dan Deacon come to mind,) but Woongi is wholly unique in they’re unwillingness to take themselves too seriously. As is evident from their stage names, they embrace the odd and off-kilter with a passion, and this dedication to the strange shows through on every track. Devoid of hooks and rock definition, the songs are left to wander off into the ether only to return in another, resulting in a cohesive whole that listens like a synth symphony with pop aspirations. A grand soundscape of brilliance, Rip’s Cuts is just the right record for the oncoming sun-streaked summer afternoons.
They are opening for Wavy ID on June 14th as part of Cole’s 10th anniversary series. Cole’s is always FREE.
The long-awaited follow-up to the universally, critically-hailed Heavn has arrived in the equally as affecting and gorgeously lyrical Legacy! Legacy!. Chicago’s own poet and songstress Jamila Woods’ second record is as compelling as it is genreless. Part spoken word with music, part blisteringly funky R&B, part feminist affirming hip-hop, her respect for the ancestors of Black art is the foundation of the record. Each track is named after an artist of color- the heroes of Woods’ life. Whether it’s celebrating the legacy of literary giants Zora Neale Hurston, Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin; the musical stylings of Eartha Kitt, Miles Davis, Muddy Waters, or Sun RA; or releshing in the light of Basquiat and Frida Kahlo, Woods brings herself into each and every tune with the constant theme of self empowerment; she makes every tune glow with the careful love it’s obviously produced with. A nearly perfect record that brings to mind other masters like Aretha, Gaye, Ross, and Wonder.
Read all about these tunes in Pitchfork’s in-depth dive into each track, and check out Ms. Woods at Thalia Hall May 26th. The Meet and Greet package is the only tix available. At $66 we consider that a damn steal.
A Taste of Midnight
Chicago-based band Replicant releases nine tracks of ‘80s nostalgia mixed with hard rock guitar and Depeche Mode-esque vocals to give listeners new album, A Taste of Midnight. The band’s continuous mixing of keyboards/sound boards, drums and guitar give this ominous melody to each song alongside haunting industrial melodies, like a slap back in time. In songs such as, “A Taste of Midnight,” “The Reckoning,” and “Widowers,” techno beats flow between electronic rhythm and pounding drums introduce listeners to this heavy rock and industrial sound, making them decide whether they should dance or head bang. Replicant, a robotic character from author Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, have come to life and has produced this emotionally-driven, melodic music that regresses to the industrial times. (Have I said industrial enough?!!) I am just loving this call back to the ‘80s where Replicant did an amazing job mixing hard rock and electronic music creating great melodies and amazing songs.
Replicant was just at Thalia Hall last Thursday.
The Slow Bark
No stranger to heavy instrumental acts, the Chicago scene is sure to embrace this debut from trio Stander. Equal parts steeped in the experimental (Godspeed You, Black Emperor and Mogwai come to mind,) and prog-rock (elements of King Crimson and Tangerine Dream are evident,) the combo of Mike Boyd on guitar, piano, samples; bassist Derek Shlepr; and Stephen Waller on drums produce an intense distillation of decades of experiments with rock composition. Whether it was the early experimentations of Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, the genius of Yes, or the later jam band movement that combined the improvisational work of The Grateful Dead with classic prog-rock to create a wholly new genre; it’s clear Stander is a fan of it all. As track flows into track on their debut, The Slow Bark, the entire record begins to feel as one piece. Each tune continues the slow and steady build to the climax in the scorching “Cutting Ants, Conquering Ants” and “At Arm’s Length” before slamming the door shut with “The Profoundest Slumper Slept Upon Him.” Stoner rock for the thinker, the tinker, and those who just like to bang heads, The Slow Bark contains something for them all.
Stander is opening for Bloddyminded and Aseethe at Sleeping Village on May 25th. Tix are $10.
Leaning heavy into the poppy side of their debut Guppy, Brooklyn darlings Charly Bliss return with Young Enough, a bubblegum gem that still contains the lyrical bite but full of bright pop hooks and hum-able melodies that prove fun can still be cool. Brother and sister Sam and Eva Hendricks grew up steeped in music, and when they met guitarist Spencer Fox in high school, the trio instantly clicked, so Charly Bliss was born. Eight years later, they have captured a glossy new-wave vibe full of slick production and hit-maker potential that leaves behind a bit of the young grunge edge populating their early recordings and embraces a more adult sound that captures the early ’20s with the proper self-doubt and life-affirming affirmations that have become a Charly Bliss staple. From the synth-pop grooves of single “Chatroom,” to the bubbly desperation of opener “Blown to Bits,” to the glossy seal of “Hard to Believe” they have set themselves apart from the indie-rock crowd with their evolution into hitmakers and no apologies necessary.
Lincoln Hall is once again hosting them on June 15th. Tix are $16.
Born a Cynic
If you listen to punk heavies Weatherstate with no knowledge of their whereabouts, you would swear they came from a southern California suburb, a midwest metropolis, or the punk bastion of New Jersey; but they invariable come from across the pond in the scenic river city of Bristol. A popular tourist destination, Bristol is famous for producing the likes of Portishead, Massive Attack, and Fuck Buttons, all steeped in electronic and synth-based genres; not exactly the place you would look for punk rock. But a recent explosion of the punk scene with fellow Bristolians Idles joining the fray, and held down by legendary Bristol bands like The Pop Group and Vice Squad, has birthed another great act in Weatherstate. Embracing American hooks and sentiments that have dominated since the punk rock third wave blew across pop culture’s evershifting lens of attention, Born a Cynic Weatherstate brings to mind the early emo of The Get Up Kids and The Promise Ring combined with some flavors of southern California pop-punk without the glossy side of later mainstream bands like Fall Out Boy or AFI. Speedy punk gems like “Rotten Lungs” and “Brain Dead” don’t come around every day, and Weatherstate looks poised to make a splash in a scene known for its fickle nature.
No stateside shows planned for these punks yet.
Any Random Kindness
Infectious , BMG
On the surface, HÆLOS is a throwback to trip-hop. That’s it- head down to my 3 songs. OK, but really, the success of this London quartet is due less to the influences-on-their-sleeves of Massive Attack and The xx, and more to do with their earnest interpretation of the jazz-influenced precursor to the EDM we know today. As I mentioned in the live review, HÆLOS has used their sophomore release, Any Random Kindness, to explore the house scene – so, still retro, but a welcome one for this Chicago boy. As part of that evolution, they’ve also expanded their lyrical content.
While debut Full Circle was more or less introspective, the eleven songs on this LP are bursting with energy and positivity (it’s almost like the album title means something). Vocalists Lotti Benardout and Arthur Delaney utilize the call and response tactic that littered their debut to staggering highs while discussing optimistic intentions in a world rife with unrest. There’s an urgency to their message, as is par for the course in 2019, but it wouldn’t mean anything without a good score behind it. Luckily, Dom Goldsmith and Daniel Vildósola surge and bulge with thundering atmosphere. Most of the tracks do follow a bit of a trend, with slow building pulsing beats that inflate to an eruption of dramatic climaxes, accompanied by the layered vocals of Lotti and Arthur, but the retro flavor and taste for dancefloor theatrics allow this to keep the sound fresh.
“Kyoto” and “Buried in the Sand” are fucking bombs; hypnotic and epic and nostalgic and hopeful and pleading and bangers and other descriptive words. Just put them on. Like now. “Empty Skies” is a wonderful track for ‘90s Moby lovers, and the last track, “Last One Out,” is a piano-driven changeup that carries a particularly moving track about finding the light in the darkness, and all that jazz. I’m not great at lyrical interpretations. For the most part, I take things at face value and just need a solid group of instruments (this includes vocals) to get me emotionally charged. Any Random Kindness has this: equal parts banger and soulful reflection. If I can sit quietly with a single malt and ponder our existence, and then throw on the strobes and get down, you’ve made one hell of a recommended record for this guy.
Only 14 minutes to spare? Check out these 3 tracks:
Buried in the Sand
Postscript: After seeing this trip-hop group destroy Lincoln Hall back in Issue #54, I have been eagerly awaiting this release. The singles have dominated my work playlists, and their whole body of work was great road trip music over the last couple weeks in Scotland. I’m very glad the album lives up to my high expectations.
Self-Editor’s note: JCB absolutely does not get down with strobe-induced dancing. It has never happened. Not once.
HÆLOS already graced us with a tour to lead up to this release, and have no upcoming dates set for the states at this time. I assume they’ll be back soon enough, though.
Revelations of Oblivion
As thrash metal was ascending through the ignoble ranks of metal in the early ‘80s, there was a sinister usurper lurking just behind the throne, and that gruesome upstart was death metal. There are many legends of where this poisonous mantel finds its origins. Some say it spawned from the gator-infested wastepools of Florida. Others believe it descended from the heathen hills and troll-infested mountains of the Swedish countryside. No one knows for sure, but a Bay area band by the name of Possessed was the first accused of using the odious term in connection with their music back in 1983, and their sound has been synonymous with the term since.
Taking the essential elements of thrash metal and running them through a cheese grater, Possessed's first album Seven Churches combined quicksilver bass and guitar interplays, distorted concussive beats, unpredictable tempo changes, pained contorted rhythms, gruff animalistic vocals, and a lyrical obsession with blasphemous themes to plant a monstrous, gnarled trunk that all manner of extreme metal sub-genres stemmed from. While the band broke up in 1987, their legacy grew, unencumbered in the proceeding decades. It was this daunting swell of adoration that caused lead singer Jeff Becerra to reform the band in 2007 and go on the road despite being wheelchair-bound after suffering multiple gunshot wounds during a 1989 robbery. It is this new version of Possessed that we hear on Revelations of Oblivion, the first proper album released under the name Possessed in 32 years. For a band that is often credited with inventing death metal and supplying the founding text of black metal, the expectations could not be higher for this release. So how does the third album by Possessed stack up in the face of towering expectations? In many ways, it reduces said expectations to rubble.
From the opening notes of the eldritch and ominous “Chant of Oblivion,” you know you’re in for a terrifying ride. This intro track is followed by “No More Room in Hell” which cracks the seal on ripping cascades of chain-breaking grooves, hail-fire blast-beats, and depictions of a world through into chaos as hell disgorges its contents. This is a not a classic death metal album. It’s not of any of the new breeds, either. This is an album made by a band that understands the nuances of both the genre’s nascent stages as well as its subsequent evolution and has made the deliberate decision to take black magic of the former and recreate it with modern playing techniques and recording standards. Like the reconstituted Über-Jason from Jason X, every molecule of Revelations of Oblivion has been rebuilt from some errand trace molecule left over from the original Possessed’s desecrated corpse, to become something leaner, more distressed, and wicked. The bolted groove and breathless, dueling register vocals of the heller-coaster “Demon” are grotesque to witness in their insatiable zeal for sacrilege. “Omen” opens with the sounds of a haunted cathedral before dipping into a locked-riff rattlesnake purr, the drum fills on “Ritual” are ruthless and blender like lending to the frantic quality to the apocalyptic visions of terror depicted in the lyrics, and the most outwardly black metal track on the album “The Ward” cuts the difference between Venom, the howl of second-wave werewolves like Immortal, and the foggy crush of St.Vitus.
While not the most groundbreaking death metal release of the year, its flaws are far underweighed by its tectonic achievements. For the first expedition following a seemingly indefinite retirement, Possessed have returned as unnatural living proof that the wicked never rest for long and that hell itself could only contain their malevolence for so long.
Possessed are touring Europe and don’t seem interested in returning home at the moment. Light some candles and recite the Lord’s prayer while hanging upside down in your closet, and maybe we’ll get a few US tour dates this summer.
Mourning [A] BLKstar
One of the most important and culturally relevant releases of the year, Cleveland ensemble Mourning [A] BLKstar has produced a phenomenally gorgeous work in Reckoning. Formed several years ago by producer and activist RA Washington, the musically adventurous collective features three talented vocalists and a large group of contributing musicians fusing afrobeat, soul, and R&B with hip-hop wordplay bent on reflecting society's issues back to the masses. Reckoning is a stirring collection of song sketches Washington produced over the course of the summer of 2018. He made a goal to write a tune a week, and the result is as moving as it is vital. A piece of unequivocal art that deserves far more attention than it will likely receive.
Mourning [A] BLKstar are appearing at The Empty Bottle as openers for U.S. Girls on June 4th. It is Sold Out.
Sometimes all you need are some chant along choruses set to crunchy guitar with a back melody that gets your toes tapping. Philly’s Big Nothing supplies just the thing on debut full length Chris. A super group of Philly scenesters Pat Graham (Spraynard), Chris Jordan (Young Livers), Matt Quinn (Crybaby), and newcomer Liz Parsons (Casual), the quartet produces a raw and immediate indie rock that harkens back to the heyday of 90’s indie pop rock. With the definite influence of Superchunk, The Replacements, and Built To Spill they shine through the haze of art rock that has proliferated the modern scene with their refreshingly good, old fashioned, pour out your heart tunes that are sure to capture the ears of anyone who misses the earnest and honest songwriters of our youth.
They just hit Chicago last Tuesday at a DIY space, hopefully they will be back soon.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Def Jam , UMG
The brain has many dimensions of emotion, emotions that ebb and flow as a person is subject to different settings and moments in life. Rapper Logic isn’t a stranger to discussing his own range of emotions, such as depression, in the limelight as a famous and influential person. In his new 16-track album Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Logic interlaces songs examining the human ego through depression, social media, fame, and acceptance. Mixing fun and up-beat songs with slower and serious songs, he features other artists that can truly relate to his theme such as Eminem, YBN Cordea, Will Smith, and Gucci Mane, to name a few. Logic varies his vocal speeds, showing off his lyrical and artistic talent and indulging listeners to his brand. In song, “Homicide” featuring Eminem, Logic raps fast against a smooth and contemporary drum beat weighing under both Logic and Shady’s fast-paced vocals and hard hitting lyrics. On upbeat songs, such as “Don’t Be Afraid To Be Different,” it was awesome hearing Will Smith begin in homage to the Fresh Prince theme song while Logic contrasted his past versus who he is now and promoting self-love by repeating the chorus, “don’t be afraid to be different.” Logic faces his depression and addiction in more serious track “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.” He sets the tone of the album early on as he addresses drug addiction, rapping about hiding pain with drugs and online criticism from social media users about his talent and career. He stays true to his features and unique style while as he explores socially conscious topics, creating a relatable work. This album begins heavy, but it feels like getting bad news first, then ending with the good news; Logic ultimately rises through his pain to put away his ego away and to continue to do what he does best, for the fans that truly love his work.
Logic will be at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL on November 15. Tickets start at $39
PROTO is like astral projecting yourself to another dimension where melody is meaningless and rhythm and timing take on another plain of existence. Continuing her sonic explorations into unreached potentials in pop music, Holly Herndon ventures down the dark recesses of experimental electronic and world beats to produce a hypnotic concoction that never ceases to amaze. Around every corner is a surprising element or wide open sonic door that leads to a lush environment of audio bliss. Thinking outside the box has always been Herndon’s strong spot. On PROTO she destroys the box, blasting her expansive art in every direction.
Thalia Hall is hosting the talented composer/producer on May 22nd. Tix are $25 - $35.
The Get Up Kids
Your late teenage heroes being reduced to a novelty act is a tough recourse, but that is just what occurred with The Get Up Kids the past several decades. However, the members of the classic second-wave emo band, credited with helping to kick off the modern emo sound, stretched out over the past several years forming pop punk side project Radar State and getting back out on the road for sing-along shows full of late 30-somethings screaming every lyric right along with them. Actions that have reinvigorated the Kansas City-based act who seem back in form for Problems, their first studio record in eight years. They still embrace the same emo tropes but with an adult attitude that gives the whole record a mature feel, catapulting The Get Up Kids into a new era of relevance. This is not your kids’ emo; Problems is tailored for the sub-forty set who grew up with this band and their contemporaries and need a new set of songs to shout along with.
They were just at Bottom Lounge in November and are currently touring Europe. We predict a Riot Fest set, since they are playing Iowa and then Detroit before and after the fests dates.
Here Comes the Cowboy
In 2014, I would have never predicted Mac DeMarco would be around in five years. While Salad Days’ laid back, prankster-rock vibe was certainly a top-played album of the year, it just seemed too much of a short-lived lark, butany of the album’s tracks permeated my beach, patio, and lake playlists. There’s just something effortless in his production and vocals that lend nicely to summer meandering, but would probably be replaced by the next year, but Mac isn’t as lazy as his persona implies, however. The next few years brought two more proper albums and a myriad of EPs and demo collections that illuminated his low-key reputation as one of the hardest working indie artists around. So, here we are in 2019, and the fourth proper Mac album is upon us. It’s his first album as an L.A. resident (gone are the days where we literally knew his address and had a standing invite to pop in and say hi), and his first on his very own label (Mac’s Record Label) because, of course- it’s called that!
Here Comes the Cowboy (spoiler alert) has absolutely nothing to do with cowboys, and is not Mac’s country album. Cowboy is just a name that Mac likes to use a term of endearment, which somehow makes complete sense for him. It’s just another inside joke to cement him as indie’s everyman – the guy that would love to have a tallboy with you, dear reader. With such an identity, you’d be forgiven for taking everything he’s done at face value. Certainly, the songs and lyrics are no different than those found on Another One or This Old Dog, but in truth - DeMarco has gradually improved as a serious songwriter, and there are a few gems on this album that really shine. “On the Square” is a classic Mac ballad, with his hazy vocals crooning over a chill ‘70s synth. “Nobody” is another gem that could be plucked off any of his previous efforts, but these two tracks differ from the many that came before them with a subtle, cynical lyrical content and a sadness that doesn’t reveal itself until you scratch that surface.
It’s meandering, sometimes too silly, and trimming it to EP length could have made a bigger impact, but Here Comes the Cowboy is pure Mac, and that’s what has kept him relevant in a world often too serious.
Only 9 minutes to spare? Check out these 3 tracks.
All of Our Yesterdays
Postscript: A couple of songs fall completely flat for me – (“Choo Choo” being the main offender.) I’m not sure if the song is a joke, and Mac is in on it, or if he’s running out of steam in this current artistic circle,but since I was proven wrong five years ago, who knows?
Mac DeMarco brings pranks and toothy smiles to The Riv on Sept 29th – tickets are $39 and are found here.
They Came with Sunlight
Sludge metal never gets its due as the forward-thinking bulwark of the metal pantheon. With a legacy of boundary-stressing sounds filtered through aggression and insight by bands with as varied of aesthetics and outlooks such as the Melvins, Boris, Crowbar, Neurosis, Baroness, and Corrosion of Conformity, the label of sludge hardly does justice to this perennially perspicacious corral of prowlers. The debut album They Came with Sunlight by Oslo's slurry steeped three-way SÂVER, seems poised to join this pack of brawny brainboxes by delivering an LP that feels like the comeback album of a seasoned veteran back on the warpath, rather than the opening shot of a still green beret. The guitar tones and vocal work often feel reminiscent of the cave-dwelling doom mavens Conan, while the methodic approach to these caustic elements leans more towards the patiently planned sonic architectonics of Mono or Isis. The hypnotic bass work adds to the character of the dirt-clogged production and the addition of hot solvent-evaporating synths provide just enough additional heat put these mixes over the boiling point. They Came with Sunlight is a promising and punishing debut that displays the prowess of a band who isalready well on its way to becoming masters of its respective form.
SÂVER is staying close to home at the moment. They may jump the pond for a tour in our neck of the woods later this year.
Oozing bass wades through squealing guitars while Natalie Hoffman’s chanting vocals rattle around the spare, grungy atmosphere of Memphis-based Nots’ third record, titled appropriately 3. Their first release as a trio after keyboardist Alexandra Eastburn left the band last year, 3 has all the gritty, in-your-face appeal that made the scene fall for them on debut, We Are Nots, and the subsequent Cosmetic, with a stripped-down sound full of bass-forward torpedoes of garage rock sure to scare those who don’t have the stomach for fist-pumping post-punk. This is Nots in their most blunt form, ready to take your heart right out of your chest, stomp on it, and then lovingly replace it as a black mass of fuzzy decimation.
Nots is playing Subterranean on June 4th. Tix are $12.